Greentrax Recordings Ltd, which includes the Greentrax, Culburnie, G2 and Celtic Collections labels, is a company with some 500 releases, now regarded by many as Scotland’s leading traditional music company and one of the largest independents in the UK. This “special projects” selection includes tracks from albums which were later featured in sell-out concerts at the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow, as well as other albums which were actually recorded live at Celtic Connections and other venues.
2016 is the 30th Anniversary of Greentrax Recordings and to mark the occasion Greentrax has released this double CD of 30 tracks, selected by Managing Director Ian Green from the many special projects of the past thirty years. The compilation includes tracks from not only the Greentrax label but also the Culburnie label (licensed from Alasdair Fraser for the UK, Europe and other territories), also celebrating 30 years in 2016. As well as these, there are tracks from the School of Scottish Studies Sound Archive, the G2 Label and the Celtic Collections Budget Series. A lot of care and thought went into the selection and Ian Green is confident that it is an exciting snapshot of the many special projects Greentrax has undertaken over the thirty years.
In selecting tracks, the rich Culburnie Records catalogue, including the many Alasdair Fraser albums, proved a difficult choice but Ian Green finally settled on The High Reel Set from the award-winning Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas Fire And Grace album. Choosing a track from the 27 albums in the highly rated Scottish Tradition Series also proved to be a daunting task but the Lizzie Higgins version of The Jolly Beggar, from the very popular Muckle Sangs album, won the day. A short but well sung version of Robert Burns’ The White Cockade is from the internationally acclaimed Jean Redpath & Serge Hovey collaboration The Songs of Robert Burns.
Tracks were selected to represent such stunning projects as Aly Bain & Friends, from what was probably one of the best TV series of all time - Aly & Phil Cunningham play an exciting set. The best-selling Gaelic Women album is highlighted by Catherine-Ann MacPhee performing one of her favourite songs. The concept was later presented as a hugely successful concert at Celtic Connections and a follow-up Scots Women concert was equally successful - Heather Heywood leads Scots Women and the Band in The Sands O’ The Shore. Scottish Women, a combination of both Scots and Gaelic Women, went on a Scottish tour and was recorded, including the late great Ishbel MacAskill leading Scottish Women and the Band in the Gaelic classic Canan Nan Gaidheal.
The prestigious Tapestry albums released as companions to Andrew Crummy’s beautifully designed and widely travelled tapestries are highlighted with tracks from The Battle Of Prestonpans - The Pipes And Drums Of The 1st Battalion The Black Watch with a Jacobite selection; The Great Tapestry Of Scotland represented by the winning entry in a competition to find a Robert Louis Stevenson song - Tusitala by Benny Gallagher; and The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry with a Brian McNeill original, The Rovin’ Dies Hard.
An album in tribute to the sadly missed Davy Steele - Steele The Show - was another hugely successful stage presentation at Celtic Connections and Dick Gaughan’s interpretation of The Last Trip Home was a must; while a project which started off as a double CD - Far, Far From Ypres - Songs, Poems & Music Of World War One - rapidly gained concert legs with sell-outs at Celtic Connections and other venues, under the guidance of producer Ian McCalman. Currently the No.1 best-selling Greentrax album (including visitor centres across Flanders) this was, for both Ian McCalman and Ian Green, a real joy to work on and includes many classics.
Other albums represented in the collection include:
Gentle Giants, focussing on the noble Clydesdale horse - Robin Laing sings Heavy Horses.
Scots In The Spanish Civil War - a previously un-released version of Peatbog Soldiers by the original McCalmans was included and a concert version of the album was yet another Celtic Connections success.
The Nineties Collection, a veritable “who’s who” of Scottish composers and musicians of which any track could have been chosen but the Traditional Music and Song Association who were behind the project kindly agreed to the opening set of tunes.
Sandy Bell’s Ceilidh is a breath of Bell’s Bar in 1988 and a set of tunes by Bell’s Big Ceilidh Band was most appropriate.
The Piper and The Maker resulted from the live recordings of a sell-out Pitlochry concert - on the album Mairi Campbell & Hamish Moore perform the title track.
Hamish Henderson is featured singing The 51st Highland Division’s Farewell to Sicily on a Hamish Henderson Tribute album released after his death.
The Eric Bogle - Singing The Spirit Home box set is the most ambitious collection released by Greentrax to date and comprises five CDs of songs selected by Eric, with the track The End Of An Auld Song from The Emigrant And The Exile album representing this hugely prolific songwriter’s work. Eric’s Santa Bloody Claus is a track which featured on Ian Green’s selected and idiosyncratic, best-selling, alternative Christmas songs album Bah! Humbug.
Other tracks which deserve special mention include:
Siobhan Miller’s interpretation of Moon River from The John Bellany Tribute Album (the internationally renowned painter originally from Port Seton).
Tony McManus with two of his French buddies, working his wizardy on Zagreb from The Clear Stream album of guitar music.
the delightful version of Both Sides The Tweed by Mairi Campbell & Jack Evans from A Clear Day’s Dawnin’.
Heather Heywood’s unique voice in My Bonny Moorhen from Songs Of The Jacobite Risings.
Isla St Clair’s emotional interpretation of Ian McCalman’s The Shian Road, from McCalman Singular.
Janet Russell & Christine Kydd singing The Fisherman’s Wife from People And Songs Of The Sea.
Sylvia Barnes’ excellent singing of Field Of Bannockburn from For Freedom Alone.
Gary West’s hauntingly beautiful Flooers O’ The Forest on the Scottish smallpipes, from Songs, Music And Poems Of Flodden.
Mastering by Peter Haigh of Pier House Studios and design by John Slavin of Designfolk.
Review by Dave Hadfield
In its own quiet way, Greentrax has been one of the most prolific roots labels in the world. Including various licensing deals, they are responsible for putting close on 500 albums out there, mainly but not exclusively devoted to Scottish music. Even limiting themselves for this collection to the many themed releases they have been responsible for, they have a back catalogue of extraordinary diversity to draw upon.
The gems in this collection are almost too many to list: Hamish Henderson's original version of the 51st Highland Division's Farewell To Sicily – now seamlessly a part of the traditional repertoire; Lizzie Higgins singing The Jolly Beggar; Jean Redpath singing The White Cockade – albeit very briefly and with a rather odd accompaniment. Stalwarts of the Scottish scene and beyond, like Dick Gaughan, The McCalmans and Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham, are on fine form. If I was to attempt the impossible task of picking just one favourite, however, it would be Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas' High Reel Set, on fiddle and cello, licensed from Culburnie Records and just a treat for the ears.
Naturally enough, the range of music involved means that there is an inevitable variation in the texture of recording between tracks. It matters not one jot; this is a bargain bin of great music from one of the giants of the genre.
This product was added to our catalog on Sunday 18 December, 2016.